Friday, February 26, 2016

Do You Know the Bechdel Test?

Take your favorite movie, TV show, book, anything fictional, it doesn't matter. Now ask these questions.

1.) Does your favorite work of fiction have two women in it,
2.) who talk to each other,
3.) about something other than men?

'Men' could mean husbands, brothers, sons, other family members, co-workers, love interests.

Did you answer 'yes' to all the above questions? If you couldn't, then your favorite work of fiction fails the Bechdel test.

The author of this comic admits she was actually referring to the Bechdel test.
The Bechdel test was originally conceived back in 1985 by Alison Bechdel and Liz Wallace. The point of the test was to assist entertainment-seekers in determining if the women in their chosen media are strong characters in their own right.

Everyone knows I'm not much of a cinephile, but I've watched six movies that were released sometime in the past year. Here are the results on each of these. (NO SPOILERS AHEAD)

Avengers: Age of Ultron - Barely passed. The only time two women spoke and didn't talk about a man was when Black Widow and Hawkeye's wife talked about the latter's unborn baby.

Tomorrowland - Passed. Casey and Athena have multiple conversations about Tomorrowland and Athena's status.

Inside Out - Passed. Joy and Sadness talk about Riley more than anything else.

Jurassic World - Failed. Claire talks to the boys' mother about the boys, and she talks to her assistant about the boys.

Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 - Passed. Katniss speaks with several female characters about the war and about her feelings regarding the future.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens - Barely passed. Rey and Maz talk about Rey's future, and Rey and Leia have a short, similar conversation as well.

To be honest, I actually expected more of these films to fail. However, the Bechdel test doesn't just serve to demonstrate the strength of female characters, it also raises the question about how women are portrayed in film in general.

Inside Out and Tomorrowland are the two strongest examples of female characters acting independently from their relationships with male characters. Mockingjay comes in at a close third. But then we have Star Wars, which some people contend didn't pass the test, and then Avengers, which barely squeaked by at all.

For me, the most important thing about the Bechdel test is that it reveals issues with our modern society. For all our talk about equality, why is it so hard to find films that not only pass the Bechdel test, but also encompass it?

I hope you were enlightened by this nifty little trick. I first learned about the Bechdel Test from (my favorite website), though you can find more information on Wikipedia.

Useful Notes / The Bechdel Test (TV Tropes)
Bechdel Test (Wikipedia)

1 comment:

  1. I love this! My favorite thing about telling people about the Bechdel test is how it's really so simple to pass. A short conversation about clothes or coffee would work (which I think happens in Thor), but it's still so uncommon for anything to pass. It's nice to see that more movies are passing the test, even if it's just barely :)